Deuteronomy 26:1–29:8: Coveting thankfulness for the LORD’s blessings

There’s more to “you shall not covet” (Exodus 20:17) than lusting after other people’s stuff. That’s the lesson of Torah reading תבוא Ki Tavo (“when you come in,” Deuteronomy 26:1–29:8), which wraps an elaboration of the Ten Commandments that spans most of the book.

Under the hood of the instructions about the thanksgiving ceremony for first fruits of the Land’s crops and the third-year tithe is this message: We also are to be grateful for what the LORD has placed in our hands and use it to produce a “bumper crop” for the Kingdom.

We are looking at the end of Moses’ second address and the beginning of Moses’ third address to the second generation of the children of Israel just before they enter the Promised Land.

As we look at this, let’s put some sanity and coherence into what appears on the surface as a “grab bag” of rules and regulations. Today’s Torah portion reviews rules and regulations that elaborate on the teaching of the Tenth Commandment.

Moses’ prophesies Israel’s downfall and their restoration. The question is why will they fall? Why will they need restoration?

There are three parts to today’s study of Ki Tavo:

  1. Deuteronomy 26:1–11: Thanksgiving ceremony for the first of the first fruits in the Land
  2. Deuteronomy 26:12–15: Third-year tithe and declaration of authenticity
  3. Deuteronomy 26:16–27:8: OK, you’ve heard the heart of the LORD on the Ten Statements. Now, record, guard and do them.

Deuteronomy 26:1–11: Thanksgiving ceremony for the first of the first fruits in the Land

“Then it shall be, when you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance, and you possess it and live in it, that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground which you bring in from your land that the LORD your God gives you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name.” (Deuteronomy 26:1–2 NASB)

What items are brought in? What are the first fruits specifically mentioned? Why are these important?What do they symbolize?

In the days of the Temple, people brought offerings of wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates (m.Bikkurim 1:3).

These offerings represent different kinds of people. For example the red grapes represent blood, specifically, the blood of the future Messiah Yeshua (Christ Jesus), which is spilled for the salvation of the people.

“While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.’” (Matthew 26:26–29 NASB)

Those fruits and produce are symbolic of the people who should be brought in. The children of Israel were not to just bring God literal crops but also bring Him many people from many different nations. That’s why God placed them in the most strategic location.

If the path of your life is not better today than it was in the past, that’s a problem. If you are spinning your wheels and going nowhere, your life will not have a happy life. You are to grow in integrity and character.

The land of Israel was supposed to be bountiful, not to hoard it but to share it to bring more people into His Kingdom.

What is the real “prosperity gospel”? To prosper yourself or prosper the Kingdom of Heaven. If you are obsessed with only your prosperity, you will end up in self destructive behaviors and even end up eating your own children either figuratively or literally.

If all you care about is your stuff and that stuff is taken away, than what are you left with?

God tested the first generation, pushing them to the maximum, to bring out their true character. Would they continue with God or seek their own way? We see the answer is that the first generation wanted to seek their own way. They even wanted to assassinate Moses and return to Egypt. They did not want to be a kingdom of priests in their own land but servants and slaves in Egypt. That’s why they died in the wilderness.

The reason God established Aaron and his family as the Kohenim? To bring the people of Israel as well as the people of the nations to God. They were the main ambassadors of the Kingdom and they not to do what they want and treat people however they want. When priests act like that, they are a bad representation of God.

The point of the tithes and offerings is to remind ourselves that God is the real source of our bounty is God, not our own hard work.

A composite photo of the seven species of grains and fruits God asked the children of Israel to present to Him in the Temple (Composite photo via Wikipedia Commons, used via Creative Commons license).

Ceremony of first First Fruits celebration in the Land

On יוֹם הַבִּכּוּרִים Yom haBikkurim (“day of the first fruits”), aka Shavuot or Pentecost, the people bring the first fruits of the Land to a special annual memorial at God’s house (Lev. 23:15, 20; Num. 28:26; Deut. 16:9–12).

When the Holy Spirit came with lasting power is symbolic of the giving of the 10 words. They work in tandem to teach us how to be good ambassadors for the Kingdom.

The declaration to the priest in this instruction seems to be particularly focused on the first observance of this memorial in the Land. One can call Deut. 26:3-10 a “confession of faith.”

With the offering in hand: “I have entered the land which the LORD swore to our fathers to give us.” (Deut. 26:3)

After giving it to the priest:

“My father was a wandering Aramean….” (Deut. 26:5 NASB)

Abram was made special because Heaven called, and he listened and responded. If we are attached to Israel, we are to be like Abraham, and seek righteousness through trusting the One Who called, led, promised and delivered.

“he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; but there he became a great, mighty and populous nation.” (Deut. 26:5)

Though it wasn’t Abraham himself who was in Mitsraim while the population grew, his legacy lived on through his grandson Ya’akov (Jacob) and great-grandson Yosef (Joseph), who led this shift to Mitsraim and received Heaven’s blessing there. We need to remember the legacy that passed God’s Kingdom to you and your responsibility for sharing it with others and passing it on. We want to show others how to be free from slavery to sin and a slave to Messiah Yeshua instead, which is the only source of true freedom.

The Patriarchs taught their children about the Kingdom of God and that legacy went forth from generation to generation. Messiah Yeshua will bring us freedom from the house of bondage.

“… the LORD heard our voice ….” (Deut. 26:6–7 NASB)

That refers to the early part of the book of Exodus when God speaks to Moses at the burning bush. God tells Moses He has heard the cries of the children of Israel in Egypt. God is not an absentee landlord or a blind watchmaker. We serve the one who sets up kingdoms and takes them out. The Creator of heaven and earth didn’t forget His promise to Abraham.We should remember where our “strength comes from. It comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Psa. 121:1–2). The Creator will make good on His promise. Messiah Yeshua tells us the first death is not final. God will resurrect His own.

God will not allow those who call themselves by His name to bring His name into disrepute. There is only one source of help, the Creator of Heaven and Earth.

“the LORD brought us out of Egypt” (Deut. 26:8 NASB)

The LORD doesn’t leave us restless, captive to what’s truly keeping us from being free. God took them out step-by-step out of Egypt. He didn’t take them the direct route because they would see war and run away in fear back to Mitsraim. He instead took them to the Red Sea, and they stood by and watched God’s deliverance and went over to the other side. He supplied all their needs along the way: water, food, etc. They had one trial after another as they left Egypt. Those trials were to prepare them for living in the Promised Land.

When Daniel noticed that the 70 years was almost over, he didn’t celebrate it with cake and champagne, he prayed, hoped and trusted in God’s promise to follow through and return the people of Israel to the Land again.

“Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.” (Hebrews 4:1–2 NASB)

The only place of true rest is the place where God has placed you in Messiah Yeshua. He delivered you out of your old life and doesn’t want you to regress to where you were before. He wants your new life and your old life to be as far apart as the east is from the west.

One of the lessons of the wandering is that to leave Mitsraim and yet keep looking back is not productive.

I implore you to understand that a life lived separate from the guidance of the Creator is life in bondage. It’s a life lived wandering for purpose, meaning and contentment and not finding it.

“He has brought us to this place” (Deut. 26:9 NASB)

The LORD didn’t pry Israel away from the forces keeping her there just to let her wander and die. The LORD had a destination, a new home, a new identity for her.

God wants us to discover the “rest” he is settling us in, and how Yeshua haMashiakh (Jesus the Christ) and Ruakh haQodesh (Holy Spirit) are essential to the move out of bondage and the move in the rest. (Hebrews 3–4)

Let our old life and its stain die with Messiah. Let our new, not-guilty life rise with Him. Move into our “rest” with a new identity and motivation via Yeshua and the Spirit.

“Now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O LORD have given me.” (Deut. 26:10 NASB)

Israel must remember the Source of this change of address, identity and related blessings.

We are implored on many occasions in Scripture not to forget our “first love,” when we first had deep appreciation for being freed from the guilt of our old lives by Yeshua and He pointed us toward the promise of our new life guided by the words and Spirit of God.

“ ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place — unless you repent. Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’ ” (Rev. 2:5-7 NASB)

Who were the Nicolaitans?

Greek scholar Joseph Thayer wrote that Nicolaitan is:

“a name which, it can scarcely be doubted, refers symbolically to the same persons who in Rev. 2:14 are charged with holding tēn didachēn Balaam, i.e. after the example of Balaam, casting a stumbling block before the church of God (Num. 24:1-3) by upholding the liberty of eating things sacrificed unto idols as well as of committing fornication; for the Greek name Nikolaos coincides with the Hebrew Bilʿām [Balaam] according to the interpretation of the latter which regards it as signifying destruction of the people.”

When we see prophesies such as Isaiah 53, we know He was rejected by His own. By His beatings, His death and resurrection, we are healed and will also be resurrected. This was something that pleased God, not because He is a sadist, but because of the salvation that would come from it.

God doesn’t merely white wash us and leave the rot hidden under a veneer of white but He goes in, tears our the rot, and rebuilds us into the man or woman He prepared us to be.

He brought rebuilt people into the Promised Land. He refused to bring in a nation with the rot of Mitsraim, the rot of sin into His rest.

Deuteronomy 26:12–15: Third-year tithe and declaration of authenticity

The families of Israel were to reserve the third-year tithe (of the seven-year sabbatical-year cycle) to allow the “Levite and the alien, the orphan and the widow” (Deut. 26:13) to celebrate the Big Three moedim (Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles) in their towns with everyone else.

The heads of families were to triple-declare before Heaven that they:

  1. Removed הַקֹּדֶשׁ ha-qodesh (“the holy”) from their homes.
  •  Not eaten any of it.
  •  Not touched it while mourning or otherwise unclean.
  •  Not offered it to the dead.

According to the Expositor’s Bible Commentary “Putting food in a grave with a dead body was a common Egyptian and Canaanite practice, which is most likely what the Israelites were not to emulate.”

  1. Gave it to the “protected classes.”
  2. “Not transgressed or forgotten any of Your commandments.”

We are to desire to celebrate God’s feasts, not by ourselves, but with others. We should long to share our bounty with our community, not only with our fellow believers, but invite those who are outside our community in.

God gives us talents, money, etc. to use, not hoard. What God gave us, He gave us to pass on. The Kingdom of God is so strong, it can even survive in North Korea.

Deuteronomy 26:16–27:8: Hear, record, do

Moshe’s second message ends with this adjuration: OK, you’ve heard the heart of the LORD on the Ten Statements. Now, record, guard and do them.

Summary: Tammy

Banner Photo: God’s way to teach us not to covet is to remind us that everything we have comes from him anyway. (Photo by Freeimages.com/Hazel Bregazzi via Creative Commons license)

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